- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

U.S. leadership under President Trump has spurred major increases in NATO defense spending, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday, with the number of countries pitching in at least 2% nearly doubling from four years ago.

During a speech at the Atlantic Council, Mr. Esper also said that the Pentagon expects NATO defense spending to skyrocket by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next four years. Increasing military spending across Europe has been a top foreign policy priority for the president, who has routinely and publicly blasted wealthy nations such as Germany that don’t meet his 2% threshold.

While Berlin hasn’t yet met the target, Mr. Esper said the list of nations that have exceeded that figure continues to grow.

“From 2016 to now, our NATO allies have added a total of $130 billion to defense spending, thanks to the United States’ leadership,” the Pentagon chief said. “Even better, we expect that figure to top $400 billion by 2024.”

As of June, Mr. Esper said, nine countries are now meeting the 2% goal. At the beginning of Mr. Trump’s term, just five countries hit the mark.



The White House and Pentagon have argued that such spending increases are both a matter of fairness and an issue of collective security. More defense spending can translate into greater military readiness, which is especially vital in eastern Europe, where the threat of Russian aggression looms large

“To overcome the increasingly complex threats in the 21st century and to defend our shared values, there can be no free riders to our common security,” Mr. Esper said.

In addition to the U.S., the other nations reportedly meeting the 2% goal are: the United Kingdom, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.

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